In Australia, inmates in jail are allowed to receive visits from their spouses, partners, family, and friends. Prisons in the States and Territories allow regular prison visits, and each of the prisons has its procedures to book visitors for visits. Are conjugal visits allowed in Australia? Not all the States and Territories in Australia recognise or permit conjugal prison visits, except Victoria. Conjugal visit in NSW is therefore not allowed for inmates. Victoria is the only state in Australia that permits conjugal visits as a conjugal right subject to certain rules or conditions.
A conjugal visit differs from a regular prison visit. A regular, supervised prison visit can include a contact visit or a non-contact visit. With a contact visit, a prisoner and visitors are allowed some contact, such as hugging. A screen separates the prison inmate from their visitors during a non-contact box visit.
Conjugal relates to a marriage or a relationship between a couple, and this includes sexual relations. A conjugal visit allows the inmate and a visitor to engage in intimate extended contact at a designated time. Conjugal prison visits are pre-arranged, and the inmate spends time in private with their visitor in a motel-type setting. Conjugal visits may take place in designated rooms or a structure for that purpose, for example, a trailer or a small cabin. Supplies such as towels, soap, or bed linens may be supplied for a visit.
The prison will inform the inmate what the duration of the conjugal visit will be. The length of the visits can vary from a few hours to several days, depending on the rules and regulations of a specific prison.
Section 37 and Section 38 Corrections Act 1986 (Vic) allow a prisoner a conjugal visit from a partner or spouse. However, these visits are subject to conditions. For example, section 37 allows a visitor to see and speak with the prisoner, but touching is not allowed unless the visit is part of a contract or residential visiting programme.
Section 38 of the Corrections Act 1986 states;
(1) “The Secretary may in accordance with the regulations by instrument, approve contact visiting programmes under which a prisoner’s family and friends may visit and have physical contact with the prisoner”.
(2) “The Secretary may in accordance with the regulations by instrument, approve residential visiting programmes under which a prisoner’s family may stay with the prisoner in prison.”
In this section, “family” is defined as a “near relative” or any other person who has a long-standing close personal relationship with the prisoner. “Near relative” is a partner, parent or grandparent (or a partner’s), child or grandchild (or a partner’s), or a sibling (or a partner’s)”.
An inmate is eligible for two types of conjugal visits in Victoria:
· An intimate contact visit between a prisoner and his/her partner or spouse
· A visit with the prisoner’s children
Corrections Victoria manages conjugal visits. Corrections Victoria is a unit of the Department of Justice and Community Safety at five prisons. A prisoner in one of the following five prisons in Victoria is allowed a conjugal visit:
· Beechworth Prison
· Fulham Prison
· Loddon Prison
· Marngoneet Prison
· Tarrengower Prison
Beechworth prison has a dedicated property near the prison where all family visits take place.
Conditions Required for a Conjugal Visit
A prisoner has to meet the following conditions to be eligible for a conjugal visit:
· The prisoner has to be a minimum or medium-security inmate
· The prisoner is serving a sentence of 18 months or more
· The visitor has to be on the approved visitor’s list and has been screened
Conjugal visits were stopped across the States and Territories in Australia, except Victoria, because of safety concerns of the visitors and inmates. There are some fears of compromised security during conjugal visits. The goal of imprisonment is usually for rehabilitation, retribution, deterrence, and the protection of society. Also, the deprivation of the luxuries of freedom, such as intimacy, is part of the purpose of the punishment for the crime committed.
The added expense and administrative burden when allowing conjugal visits need to be taken into consideration. There must be an additional screening of all visitors and assessing the validity of relationships or marriages. Opponents have further noted the unfairness of allowing some inmates the privilege of a conjugal visit, whilst denying others inmates.
In a nutshell, the following reasons are presented against conjugal visits in Australian prisons:
· The deprivation of intimacy for inmates in prison is part of the punishment for the crime they committed
· The level of resources, money and time that goes into facilitating a conjugal visit for inmates place unnecessary strain on the prison system
· The sense of unfairness if some inmates get conjugal visits while others do not
· The safety concerns of visitors and the inmates due to the physical nature of these types of visits
· The appearance of being soft on crime can influence public confidence in Government
However, conjugal visits are implemented in various prisons across the world to lessen the strain on families when a member is incarcerated for a long period. Some of these prison authorities see conjugal visits as an added benefit to prevent homosexuality inside the prisons as well as affairs by wives or husbands living outside the prison system.
Some say conjugal visits are necessary to ensure a humane prison system. Some people in favour of conjugal visits refer to the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. This states that:
· 61. “The treatment of prisoners should emphasise not their exclusion from the community, but their continuing part in it”.
· 79. “Special attention shall be paid to the maintenance and improvement of such relations between a prisoner and his family as are desirable in the best interests of both parties”.
· 80. “From the beginning of a prisoner’s sentence, consideration shall be given to his future after release, and he shall be encouraged and assisted to maintain or establish such relations with persons or agencies outside the institution as may promote the best interests of his family and his social rehabilitation.”
Conjugal prison visits am to allow and maintain family connections and to assist with the reintegration of the inmate back into the community upon release from custody. Another purpose of the conjugal visit is to reduce the chances of reoffending and to make the community safer. These visits also provide an incentive for the inmates to comply with various day-to-day prison rules and regulations.
Conjugal visits can increase community safety because inmates can maintain family relationships, improve their mental health, and reintegrate with ease back into the community. It can lead to a reduction in violence within the prisons and maintain a semblance of fundamental human rights with a more humane approach to the prison system. This will hopefully curb recidivism and decrease prison violence. All of these factors can decrease the likelihood of an inmate reoffending after rehabilitation, and this will increase community safety in the long term.
It can be daunting to visit an inmate, and strict safety and security measures are in place to ensure that prisons remain safe and secure. On a first visit, a visitor must supply all relevant information. This information will be logged into the prison system. Some biometric details will be recorded and the visitor will need to have the correct identification to pass the 100-point check.
An inmate has to nominate who can visit them, and if a person is not on the inmate’s contact list the person will not be allowed to visit. All visitors, including children, must be approved before a visit, and anyone who has been in prison in the last 12 months will not be allowed to visit an inmate. Inmates are required to supply some personal information about visitors. This personal information is recorded to inform approved visitors of visiting arrangements.
Family and friends have to arrange a visit in advance by phoning and confirming a date for a visit. The request will need to be approved. Each prison has its visiting times, and rules, and family and friends can get this information on the prison page. Visiting rules and times do change, and it is advisable to check before a visit.
Children are allowed in the prison for visits. A visit will, however, not be allowed if a court order is in place that bans contact with children.
If a person cannot attend a scheduled visit, it is advisable to phone the prison and cancel the visit. A person can leave a message for the inmate to facilitate further contact. Each prison uses its security methods. The prisons can have a variety of security methods:
· Fingerprint scanning
· Eye scanning
· Metal detector or a handheld device scanning
All visitors will also have to pass an ID check. Visitors have to supply more than one form of ID and they also must have a photograph.
The Department of Correctional Services uses the 100-point check system to establish proof of identity for all prison visitors. The visitor will need original documents or certified copies by the Justice of the Peace to prove their identity. The Department of Correctional Services does not accept online, digital, or photocopied identification forms and visitors must supply original hard copy photographic identity documents. 100 points of identification are required to visit a prison. If a visitor does not have suitable identification, the visitor will not be able to visit an inmate.
Children need identification, such as a student ID card. Infants do not need any ID.
· A valid passport
· Law card
· Firearms licence
· Key pass
· Police member ID
· Ombudsman photo ID card
· Working with children pass
· Consulate ID card
· Correctional service card
· Current driver’s licence with photo
· 60+ card
· Birth certificate
· Marriage certificate
· Australian citizenship certificate
· Defence Department ID
· Government authorised under 16 years card
· Medicare card
· Health care card
· Student card
· Credit card
· Bank book
· Proof of Age card
Only one of each type of identification will be accepted in the 25-point category. Four of these documents together equal 100 points.
Biometric Enrolment System
A Biometric Enrolment System is used in some of the prisons in Australia. This biometric system uses iris or fingerprints to confirm the identity of all individuals entering and exiting the prison. All visitors over the age of 18 have to be enrolled in the system on their first visit. After that, a visitor will only be enrolled into the system once, and each visitor will then be biometrically scanned into and out of all the institutions with the equipment.
The information is used to confirm the identity of a visitor and to ensure the visitor matches the details of the person on the authorised visitor’s list.
Searching and Monitoring Visitors
Visitors will be searched upon entry into the prison and after registering. In addition, vehicles entering the prison grounds may also be searched, and the prison authorities may record details of the search, including the vehicle’s registration number.
Visitors may be monitored and recorded within the prison grounds and in the carpark. In addition, cameras may monitor and record public areas in prison facilities. Visitors are subject to the directions and restrictions of the prison as deemed necessary to maintain the facility’s security.
Property, Clothing, and Personal Possessions
Visitors are not allowed to wear clothing that contains offensive slogans or gang-related symbols. Women are also prohibited from wearing overly revealing or unsuitable clothing for a visit. There are lockers available to store small items during the prison visit. Newspapers, handbags, cash, and any electronic devices are not allowed in prison.